Extended hands on with Huawei Mediapad M3 Lite Tablet

Extended hands on with Huawei Mediapad M3 Lite Tablet

Nov 16, 2017

The Android tablet scene is far from sparse. There are several vendors, exponentially more options, and consumer is king.

As such, it’s tough for manufacturers to make a name for themselves. Huawei has come quite far from those heady days when it had to teach people how to pronounce its name; indeed, Huawei can arguably claim to be one of the more prominent Android OEMs.

Such recognition can be a double-edged sword, what with affordable options like the recently released Mediapad M3 Lite. We definitely looked to give it a major workout.

The review retail box contained the tablet, charging pieces, paperwork and eject pin. Then, it’s off to charge.

Now, if the screen should be considered the jump-off point, the M3L definitely makes a great impression. Right upon initial boot, the vivid 1920 x 1200 pixel 8-inch screen smiles in greeting. It does like smudges though.

Just beyond the screen, you do get a sharp white frame, with space up top for an 8MP fixed focus front-facing camera, while a deceptive home button resides at the bottom. Around the frame, there are the requisite ports: audio input, micro-HDMI charging, microphone and speakers. The volume rocker and power buttons reside on the right, while there is a prominent 8MP auto-focus snapper. If you blink, you might miss the microSD card expansion slot. All this packed into a 8.4 x 4.9 x 0.3 inch frame that comes in at under 11 ounces.

m3

Altogether, the white finish with silver accents worked well on our review unit (and we hear it can be had in grey and gold too).

We proceeded to setup… the M3L does its thing snappily; under the hood, it packs a familiar Qualcomm Snapdragon octa-core processor. A quick run through reveals the standard stuff: bluetooth and GPS, plus 3 GB RAM, 16 GB memory and a 4800 mAh battery.

But back to performance. Basic operations like browsing, listening to music and running social networking apps didn’t cause any noticeable slowdowns. I did wish it had more onboard memory, especially with all the stock (Facebook, Amazon, Lyft, etc) apps it has. The iteration of EMUI is a nice, relatively thin-feeling overlay, and the fingerprint reader is a great latent touch, in that you might get fooled by the placement on the “home” button.

And the camera… well, check it out:

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Whines? One’s man’s must-have is another’s man app bloat. I wish I could remove — completely — apps that I don’t want. Which brings me to another nitpick: 16GB isn’t a lot for wanna be app hoarders.

The M3L does well to make you feel like you are getting a good deal for relatively little. It doesn’t really compete well with its big brother, but I hazard that its biggest positive is that it really isn’t supposed to.

Satechi R1 Foldable Stand: a simple accessory for a complex world

Satechi R1 Foldable Stand: a simple accessory for a complex world

Nov 1, 2017

The older I get, the more I am willing to look to do more with less, especially with regards to productivity. Especially with regards to smartphones. My go bag is still my version of the Tardis, but now, I really work hard to ensure that the most important stuff resides in it.

It’s not rocket science. I want to carry less things, and still be productive.

If I have decent sized phone (I do), a good data plan with hotspot (check) and a wireless keyboard (yessir), I should be able to do my thing wherever there’s a workable cellular signal.

The Satechi R1 Aluminum Foldable Mobile Stand just helps round out the party.s3

In use, what you see is what you get: a relatively sleek, balanced accessory that holds up a phone or tablet such that it can be used upright. Hey, I admit it. The chrome-y aluminum finish is quite becoming. out the box, it comes flat and unassuming. It unfolds intuitively to reveal two hinges that create a tri-fold of sorts that has a curved holder at the end. The hinges are fairly tight, and require a bit of pressure to adjust.

The item can be tweaked via aforementioned hinges, which allow for the held device to be suspended at the right height and angle. The natural heft and flat base design make it hard to be toppled over.

I tried it out with everything I had: smartphone, 10-inch tablet and even swivel touchscreen Chromebook. It acquitted itself quite well.

The ability to adjust the height is a great feature. Being able to add a few inches to bring a screen closer to one’s eye level is invaluable. I also like the latent ability to prop a laptop dock-style. Since my Chromebook is my go to machine while on the run, I can count on this to work with it.

When it comes right down to it, this piece’s biggest attribute is probably its portability. The ability to securely hold up a mobile device for usage or consumption does not impress me as much as it should, but being portable does. I like the fact that this can be easily tossed in a go bag, or even a pocket if need be. The flexibility is another plus, as it can be used with a phone and even laptop/Chromebook.

Still, with how my workstation is set up, I just might make this a semi-permanent piece. Hey, this is a pretty cool problem to have, no?

Whine? Nitpicking somewhat, but because of the overall tightness, it is difficult to adjust with one hand. Of course, if I had to give up that first world problem for more device surety, I am quite okay.

Almost. Just about.

And how much is this item? Well, at the time of this writing, it is about $39.99 via the Satechi website, though you can pick it up for a bit cheaper on Amazon. Depending on your needs, it can easily be considered a reasonable investment; in these days of commodity electronics, I can understand someone going cheaper too.

DriveSavers offers free data recovery for people affected by Hurricane Harvey

DriveSavers offers free data recovery for people affected by Hurricane Harvey

Aug 30, 2017

There are definitely quite a few things more important than material possessions; as Hurricane Harvey ravages parts of the United States — and as we recoil from the destruction and loss — we are equally uplifted by stories of heroism and neighborliness.

We are also seeing corporations step up to the plate, helping in anyway they can. Add data recovery firm DriveSavers to the list.

The company is offering to help recover data from water-damaged hard drives, smartphones, tablets, laptops and so on. This offer is available to all who are affected by the tropical storm.

DriveSavers president Scott Moyer talks about helping to retrieve priceless materials. “DriveSavers is known worldwide for recovering data from severely traumatized devices including those that have been dropped, burnt, crushed and fully submerged in water,” he says. “We’re pleased to offer our expertise to those who’ve lost irreplaceable data like photos and videos of loved ones, business files and financial records.”

According to the press release, folks do have to act relatively quickly; according to DriveSavers, this is to account for corrosion and the like. Devices and units must be shipped by September 15th. There is a one device per household limit, but DriveSavers is offering a discount to folks with more/advanced equipment.

The company promises to look to do as many pieces as it can, based on costs and available personnel.

[via DriveSavers Press Release]

TEKKEN is coming to mobile

…officially, that is. Yep — one of the first gaming fighters is making its way to Android (and iOS); we hear it’s already soft launched in some locals.

TEKKEN!

The game packs in a few different modes. There’s “Story” piece, which allows the player to create a team, and features a new character made for mobile; think of campaigns and the like.

There’s the online “Dojo Challenge” as well. Friends and other players get to go against PvP style.

Then, players get “Live Events” to go with all these.

Nah, we can’t wait to get our hands on TEKKEN. Small consolation… we can all pre-register right HERE!

Checkout the trailer, and let us know what characters you’re looking to use in the comments:

A mobile look back: Clash Royale Review

A mobile look back: Clash Royale Review

Aug 21, 2017

In an increasingly saturated mobile app market, it is definitely hard to make a name for oneself; having a well-received big brother on the Play Store is definitely a benefit.

Clash Royale, from Supercell — yes, that Supercell — definitely has just that.

The graphics are fun to behold… deliberate, somewhat whimsical characterizations on a colorful background template. The main action is imbibed via a top-down view. The game incorporates animations that help the action along, and they do add visual pop that helps keep one engaged. From fireballs to marching duos, it comes together quite well, and even the side screens feel genially done. there’s detail in the little things — arrows look like arrows, for instance — and even the occasional dragon is easy spot and enjoy.clash3

The sounds are quite appropriate, and all connect with the eye candy component.

If the game feels somewhat familiar — as in, say, Clash of Clans — the similarities are well-intentioned, as both games share creative DNA. This one stands firmly on its own, and the seven-part hands on tutorial helps one understand the flow of the action.

The main idea is to win PVP battles; at the base level, there are three enemy towers, and three home towers. Intuitively, one wants to take out the opponent towers before that person returns the favor.

Like any tower defense game worth its salt, this one has troops (cards) of different abilities, and one has a limited, rechargeable amount of “elixir” which is used to deploy these different pieces. Deployment does two things; they can generally attack enemy installations, and may even be able to take on enemy troops that are attacking one’s home towers. Since each piece has its own attributes, and also because one has to wait for recharging (plus different pieces have different costs), one has to deploy with a semblance of strategy. Each side gets a king’s tower and two sentry towers, and protecting the king is paramount. The cards run the gamut, bringing fantastical fighting personnel to the fore.

It boils down to a timed war of attrition, if time passes without a clearly winner, the game starts a sudden death overtime period.

Cool stuff, really.

There are a lot of other pieces, like chests of goodies, the upgradeability of the cards, the ability to collect other cards and create battle sets, achievements and more. Gems and gold coins make things happen, and can be supplemented by real cash if one wants to expedite processes. Players can level up, and some things (like selecting clans) are based on one’s level.

The game does slow down, creading a faux energy requirement, but it is possible to go rounds and rounds if one is willing to forego some payouts.

Altogether, it’s an engaging caper, if a bit overwhelming; simply put, it has great appeal.

App Sale: Graphic puzzler FRAMED gets price slash

App Sale: Graphic puzzler FRAMED gets price slash

Aug 15, 2017

Every now and then, we come across a game that grabs a hold of us.

FRAMED is one of those. It’s an interesting, comic-like game that we loved, and, coincidentally, is also on sale right now.

To play it is to get engrossed in it. Every “page” comes together like a graphic novel, except that the middle frames are jumbled up; the idea is to shift said middle images around in such a way that a coherent story is formed, and one gets from point A — the first frame — to point B — the culmination for that page.

And on to the next. And so on.

In any case, FRAMED can be had right now for $0.12. Yep, 12 cents… down from its regular price of $2.99

Not bad.

If you’re wondering why we love it, check our review from way back when.

By the way, the game has a sequel too, aptly named FRAMED 2.

[Our FRAMED Review]

[via Slickdeals]

Upcoming game Stronghold Kingdoms gets release date and teaser trailer

Upcoming game Stronghold Kingdoms gets release date and teaser trailer

Jul 31, 2017

Finally…

We’ve been keeping an eye out for this one for quite some time — Stronghold Kingdoms now has a release date: August 31st.

Now, if you don’t know about this PC-borne game, here are some details. It’s a castle MMO, and is all about battling other players for supremacy and goodies.

Firefly’s Lead Designer Simon Bradbury talks about how much this game means to the company. “Firefly Studios quite possibly wouldn’t exist without Stronghold Kingdoms” he says. “At a time when the company was down from over thirty developers to a skeleton crew of five, we took a gamble on free to play and the Stronghold community saved us. To see that game come all the way from its humble beginnings to a full mobile launch with millions of players makes me incredibly happy.”

With that, we can’t wait to check this out. In the mean time, check out the trailer below:

[via Firefly website]

Adventure Time Run goes live on Google Play

Adventure Time Run goes live on Google Play

Jul 31, 2017

Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time has a few mobile iterations on Google Play, but now, it gets the running treatment in the just released Adventure Time Run.

Of course, Finn, Jake and the rest of the whimsical crew definitely make their collective presence felt; the game incorporates several familiar environments and characters that are available to be released.

As far as gameplay goes, it runs like any other lane runner. See you long you can make it! There are collectibles, ranking systems and “adventure portals… just what a growing mobile gamer needs.

The game is free (with in-app purchases) on Google Play.

[Google Play link]

The good old days…

I admit it… I miss the good old days.

Way, way back when… when mobile games and utilities were novelties that cost as much — and sometimes even more — than similar desktop applications. Heady days, I tell you. Finding that special application could make or break your mobile experience.

Back then, Palm and WinMo were the platforms to contend with, and the mobile apps available were slick pieces of engineering. Remember Datebk and Agendus (by Pimlico Software and Iambic respectively)? Well, you were not — could not — be organized without them. Calendar, to-do and everything in-between for the mobile professional. Owning one or the other was a sign of seriousness. Owning both? Hello.

And then, what about TomTom Navigator? Yo, $150 got you the best GPS software at the time (before adding a bluetooth puck, by the way). SplashMoney was king when it came to managing financial accounts. Think about it… checkbook balancing with every Hotsync.

And there were games too. A whole lot of games. Bejeweled found a mobile home early on, as did fantastic entries like Chuzzle, Platypus and more. Look, if you didn’t have an Astraware game, you didn’t know games. Seriously, that studio had my free time on lock. I still think that Hellfire: Apache vs Hind is one of the best games to ever make it to mobile, but I am sentimental like that.

The Broken Sword series (from Revolution). SimCity. You name it, and I probably had it. Owning games meant spending money.

It is a different day now. Back then, freeware was probably unique, so much so that they were cataloged separately (prior to the proliferation of app stores). Now, free-to-play is pretty much the standard.

On the surface, it’s all good. Kudos to developers reacting to the market, and figuring that creating experiences that give the user the option to go for more (or using ads) was the way to go. Everyone wins, no?

Still, I miss the old days, when buying a full-fledged application was the way things were done. I am not against IAPs, but I do wish I had an opportunity to procure some games outright. Developer, name your price. I decide if I want to pick it up. May the best app win.

That’s my perfect world.

But the app market has spoken, and I do have to respect it. Now, instead of the semi-functional demo version that leads one to get the full version, we have it all in one package. Micro-transactions are the law of the mobile gaming land. More downloads, potentially more money for the developer willing to put out a great game AND put in the work to keep said hit game maintained.

But I am allowed to reminisce I think. I will look back at the good old days, where I spent a lot and got a whole lot more… I think. there was a whole lot less available, numerically speaking, but I do feel like I was a better supporter of those who made the apps.

My App Addiction: Swagbucks

My App Addiction: Swagbucks

Jul 31, 2017

The internet is one great window shopping trip. For me, at least, it is. I love finding cool, useful stuff, especially gadgets. Now, the whole process works for me because I have one crazy flaw: I dislike buying stuff at full price. I will if I absolutely have to, but usually, I’m perfectly fine not purchasing an item if it isn’t on sale at that point in time.

Consequently, I’m always looking for a deal. Yes, one has to consider the ROI of deal-chasing, but still, Swagbucks is a great tool to have when it comes to pulling the trigger with specific retailers.

Swagbucks is a way to earn “swagbucks” for answering surveys and shopping. Said swagbucks can be redeemed for cool goodies like Amazon gift cards. Some of the surveys feel more invasive and time-consuming than others, but the shopping aspect is compelling; what essentially comes to cash back for shopping and the like can be addictive. For example, buying stuff at Macys.com can net you 6% in swagbucks… basically, 6 swagbucks for every dollar spent.

Bucks can be redeemed for gift cards from Amazon, Target, Paypal, Walmart and several other big name companies.

Of course, for folks that are especially mobile — self humbly included — it wouldn’t be as cool without a companion app.

Now, I use the app more for reference. If I am out and about, and see something on sale (or am notified of a great price via another one of my addictions Slickdeals), I usually check to see if it a seller that gives out swagbucks. If it does, I figure it might be better to purchase online, maybe even via my phone, so as to get the affiliate link.

It’s also possible to do the aforementioned surveys on the go. As noted, these can be quite inquisitive, but for those that don’t mind answering truthfully, it can be a great way to answer these surveys and earn bucks while hanging out at the doctor’s office or during have time of a sporting event.

The mobile app also allows users to rack up bucks by watching videos. Now, this is not the quickest way to garner points, no, but just like the surveys, it’s a great, mobile way to get these done. Now, even cooler if you love watching movie trailers.

The app, of course, also provides notifications with regards to swagbucks-gaining opportunities. It’s the best way to find out about the so-called swag codes that pop up on Facebook and elsewhere. Such codes can be entered right there within the app.

Swagbucks is far from something new, or especially unique at this point. What makes it relevant for me is its ability to potentially make an already sweet deal even sweeter. The app helps keep track of where I am on the go, and to effect sensible purchases when I am away from my desktop or Chromebook. It takes an important app to earn a lasting spot on my primary devices, and Swagbucks has earned one.

Last Day on Earth: Tips and Tricks

Last Day on Earth: Tips and Tricks

Jul 31, 2017

Zombies are the in-thing, and Last Day on Earth: Survival is a game that really brings them to life. It’s an expansive game, and even as it makes its way to full release, we can’t stop talking about it.

Here are some tips and tricks — for the true newbies — to help you get going.

Get a stash of edible resources
Food and drink are very important (duh!). As you play, there are hunger and thirst meters that inexorably tick down to zero. Reaching zero on either means death, so it is important to consume sustenance when warning pangs begin to appear.

Along these lines, it might be a good idea to always have a snack and/or drink handy when out and about. Depending on the locale, it might also be a good idea to pick up some berries or even rustle up some game meat to supplement your eats.

But don’t forget that water. “Regular” food does help with thirst, but nothing beats a bottle of water.

Don’t throw stuff away
This one is obvious, but crafting makes up a huge part of this game. When you are out and about collecting stuff, you’ll most likely find pieces that might not feel that important. Keep them.

Being a beta and all, there are quite a few teased vehicles that aren’t available yet. Those pieces will become important.

Opportunity costs abound; choose wisely
So much of the gameplay comes down to choice.

Right from the beginning, you accumulate limited resources. Then, you have to decide what to use these resources to do. Some things might feel more important than others… that rain catcher, for instance, is a great pickup. One might be able to hold off on making, say, a gunsmith table, even after it is available.

The same applies to making runs. Limited space to carry all those things, so you have to decide what is most important… or spend valuable energy on multiple trips.

Fight. A lot
To get the important stuff unlocked, you need to reach specific XP thresholds, and one of the best ways to reach those markers is to dispatch zombies. Hey, find some and go to town, and watch the XP pile up.

An added advantage is that some zombies have goodies you can pick up, including those ultra important bunker access cards. Other survivors can be tricky, but the payoffs for taking them out can be well worth it.

Bonus tip: crouching and creeping up on enemies is the way to go.

…but don’t be scared to run
Look, discretion is sometimes the better part of valor. It might behoove you to sneak away. Other times, running at a fast clip to avoid gruesome toxic spitters or floater bloaters is smart. No shame in staying alive.

When you die in-game, you re-spawn at your home… with nothing but the red underwear you started with. That means you lose any food, weapons, raw materials and the like that you acquired. This can be painful, so knowing when to flee to the safe green areas bordering the environments is important.

Bonus tip: if you die away from home and lost a bunch of stuff, you might be able to recover the loot from your dead body (no, really) if you go back immediately after re-spawning. It’s an interesting game quirk.

Farming is key
You’ll need raw materials, and a lot of them. The batch that is accessible in your home environment is simply a starter stash, and you’ll have to travel to get more. So, get storage boxes, and get those materials. Wood, ore, limestone plant fiber, seeds and the like. Plant seeds are great; along with a garden or two, they can provide a never-ending supply of carrots. Wood is a biggie, as is iron ore — down the road.

Bonus tip: see if you can get rid of all the zombies, and then activate “auto” to let your character farm automatically. XP galore!

Remember: it’s a beta
Officially, this one is still in beta. There is talk about the eventuality of a server wipe when it really goes live.

Enjoy!

[Google Play link]
[Our beta review]

Last Day on Earth: Survival Review: an impatient first look

Last Day on Earth: Survival Review: an impatient first look

Jul 31, 2017

Look… we’re not that hard to please. Drop, say, a survival game on us. Toss in crafting, fighting and zombies, and you might just get mobile gaming nirvana.

AKA Last Day on Earth: Survival? We hope so.

This one takes the newbie player small dab in the deep end; you get in and feel your way around. The player takes on a grim persona… as one of the few — very, very few — survivors of Just Another Zombie Apocalypse. That, along with the violence that erupted amongst those left behind effectively decimated 90% of the world’s population.

It’s a tough place to be. Back to the basics, human raiders, scarce resources and gruesome undead.

Let’s go.

The game utilizes a top-down view in the core action screen, with a virtual joystick to control primary movement. Visually, you get simple representations and effective animations. It’s isn’t overly complex to the eye, and it works.

As noted, it just starts. You plop down in a wilderness with items like trees boulders and the like. Some can be gathered, and others can be interacted with in some way, especially if one has the right tool. Intuitively, you collect all collectibles, and use them to craft tools that can help get more resources. Playing around helps to figure things out, too. Need a hatchet to chop down trees? Well, check out the crafting section, find out what you need to make it, and find those items.

ldoe3

The developer does do a good job of adding a good degree of logic. You have to have food and water. So, it makes sense to keep limited spots open for such necessities. Raw meat is great, but it behooves the player to unlock recipes to use with a fire to cook it. Empty water bottles and cans have value, as do seeds for future farms. Bathing is important, as nothing attracts the undead better than ripe BO; remember to relieve yourself when nature calls, because few things are as inconvenient as being attacked when using the little boy’s tree.

Actions acquire XP, which replenishes the lifebar. Said lifebar can be adversely affected by attack, famishment, and such. Yes, you can be revived, but you lose what you have on you if you die, which can be painful.

ldoe2

Several elements are level-restricted, so progress is key. For example, it helps to be able to hire farm workers, but one cannot hire such at lower levels. Also, making one’s way to a watchtower helps find new areas to visit, but that can only be achieved at a specific threshold.

Usually, this is where I delve into my self-indulgent rant about the gross unfairness of every requirements. Yes, this game has one, and yes, it somewhat restricts gameplay. It’s implemented interestingly enough, such that one had a choice. You see, it’s the main means to facilitate far travel, but of can choose to walk versus energy-consuming “running.”

I gotta say… I cottoned to this one pretty quickly. It’s fun (albeit beta) endeavor, and just as easily played in spurts as it is over long periods.